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The latest news from the TV beat

''Dawson's Creek,'' Jerry Springer, and Barry Diller made news this week

Getting the suds out
If Dawson’s Creek seemed more like Melrose Place last season (what with Dawson going on a drinking jag, his dad going after a younger woman, Pacey’s girlfriend, Andie, going wacko, and the teens’ hangout going up in flames), fear not. As the show heads into its second full season, the plan is to go back to its less melodramatic roots.

”It will definitely return to a first-season sensibility,” promises WB executive VP Jordan Levin. ”Dawson will have something to say instead of the cast reacting to bigger-than-life plots.”

Gone is creator Kevin Williamson, who, besides his movie work (Scream), has created ABC’s new drama Wasteland. Although it’s unusual for a creator to leave a show so early in its run, Williamson’s hectic life was taking its toll. ”I was starting to crash and burn,” he says. ”It’s best I’m not part of it this year.” He too feels the show was getting ”too soapy,” something he says he never intended. As for life without Dawson, he expects some withdrawal. ”It’ll be hard,” he admits. ”But I’m never too far away.” Paul Stupin remains as exec producer, with Alex Gansa (Maximum Bob) and Tammy Ader (Party of Five) helping to fill the void left by Williamson.

Of course, while trying to stay the keeping-it-real course, they’ll have to find a way to write in teenybopper Britney Spears, who’s set to splash into the Creek this season. Maybe aspiring director Dawson will start shooting music videos.

Do as I say, not as I did
So USA Networks Inc. head Barry Diller wants Jerry Springer to clean up his act or he’ll sell the show. Funny thing is, it’s Diller himself who paved the way for Springer’s raunch. While building Fox TV, the then chairman of Fox Inc. broke the rules of conventional TV with taste-challenged sitcoms (Married…With Children), sexy game shows (Studs), trailer-trash fristicuffs (Cops), and tabloid fodder (A Current Affair). It was only a matter of time before Springer was spawned. Diller’s sudden rectitude brings to mind the scene from Casablanca in which Captain Renault closes down Rick’s bar, saying he’s ”shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on,” while pocketing his winnings. Diller and Studios USA declined to comment on the Springer situation.

Alas, if Springer’s antics continue to irk the flip-flopping Diller, then Jerry just might find that the problems of a talk show host don’t amount of hill of beans in this crazy business of TV.